- Small Worlds
- Chapter Fifteen
"A shedim!" Abigail exclaimed. "Sound the alarm, someone!"
"WERTHER, NO—" The girl, wrenching her way out of her captor's weakening arms, sent a spinning kick towards a small, reflective plate on the wall. The thin hyperplast cover shattered as it met her foot, and the button beneath it was crushed. The overhead lighting dimmed to bloodred. Klaxons howled in the background.
"Damn it, no!
" Infuriated, Vaniah threw his fist at the nearest guard. He missed the caustic shedim slime eating down to his cheekbones, and sent the SDF soldier reeling to the ground with agonized howls of pain. "Visstor, I—What in the Hell...?"
"Exsssactly," Visstor replied, smirking. "We'd better run, Gunssslinger."
"Vaniah, are you crazy?
" Werther shouted.
"Just follow us!
" He retreated along the hallway, following Visstor. "He's on our side! Don't worry!"
Werther shifted with a moment's hesitation. The girl caught the barrel of Abigail's gun turning toward her. Her legs picked up, and she sprinted after the gunslinger and his companion.
The pneumatic whine of the ship's movement surrounded them. The door they'd come through hissed closed, a thick black blast door crushing over the basic doorway. The screen over the keypad entry went dark. There was an aggrivated snarl and the sound of a gunshot, followed by a bullet impacting the heavy doorway.
Vaniah stopped, chest heaving. "That deals with Abigail, for now," he said.
"Don't stop, you idiot!
" Vaniah felt a pair of fingers hook themselves into his collar. Werther yanked him forward. "We've gotta keep moving!" Shrugging, Vaniah started jogging. Her face was anxious. "Sure, that stops her,
but I sounded the alarm! That alarm puts the entire ship into lockdown."
"You put us into lockdown?!
" Vaniah tried to scream, but the pressure of running stole all the wind from his lungs. It came out as a withered, rather defeated-sounding pant.
The sound of distant, armored footsteps echoed from a paralell hallway. The hollow thud came from above and to the left of them, moving in fearful rhythm.
The three fugitives skidded to a stop. There was another door in front of them, the blast shield lowered in front of it.
tell me there's some way to get through that thing!"
"Not even a bomb could get through that," Werther sighed.
"...their thoughts!" a thin voice from the other side of the wall said.
The three all gasped lightly. "Quick! We've gotta hide! Somewhere! Anywhere!
" Werther said.
Visstor knelt. He stuck his fingers through a grate on one of the hallway's octogonal sides.
Vaniah made a face. "Oh, you have got
to be kidding me..."
The shedim ran his claws along his oozing, fluid arm, pulling up ridges of foul-smelling muck. Vaniah and Werther both pinched their noses and turned away, trying to push down their bile. The shedim picked up the ridges and began rolling them over his arms, building up small balls as he'd done to take out the guards. He pressed the thick globs of mucus into the bolts securing the screen; the metal hissed and dissolved, the bolts becoming workable and thin.
Visstor yanked the screen up, the metal complaining loudly. "Ladiesss firssst," he said.
Werther rolled her eyes, but climbed obligingly into the vent. Visstor gestured genially for Vaniah to follow. He slid down the vent with ease—though his bulky, mismatched clothing made the fit somewhat tight. Visstor squeezed in behind them, replacing the grate and welding it back with more corrosive slime.
"Nobody speak," Werther whispered. "The accoustics in here are terrible... They'll hear us."
Vaniah tried to be quiet, but the thin metal ducts squeaked as he inched along them. He heard the shedim's body eating away at the passageway as they went.
There was a thud overhead as the blast doors retracted. The red light coming in from above was suddenly cut off. A heavily-armored foot, every sharp, deadly line picked out in the red glow, stood in front of the great.
"I heard them!" someone yelled sharply. "They were talking and thinking through the walls just a few minutes ago. They can't have gone far."
"They might have made it through before the lockdown began!"
"Right! Search the area!"
"YES CAPTAIN PETERS SIR!" the SDF soldiers chorused back.
Vaniah thought. I should've known! Captain Peters, though. Not Zeke. We'll be good on that for the time being.
"WHO THOUGHT THAT?!"
Vaniah suddenly realized what he was thinking about, and began to hum another Earth ballad to himself just in case he broadcast a little too far. "...A three-hour tour. A three-hour tour.
The ducts continued to rumble and complain as the three made their way along the passages, scooting along on their knees. The klaxons and red light faded, replaced with darkness and a dull hum all around.
"One of these has
to lead to the escape pod bay," Werther dared to whisper.
"Screw your gun!" Werther shouted back.
Both of them paused. Visstor nearly slid into Vaniah. They both seemed rather shocked.
"Well... Screw it for now.
If we don't get out of here, we'll never
be able to stop the Captain—"
Noonjack from using the blaggemol! Escape first, plan later!"
"...Plan?" Vaniah said with a small grin.